“It was the first time I was ever normal in my life,” is how Jerome Howard recalled his transition from football to life after football.
Jerome Howard was one of the most accomplished college football players in the country. Howard was a 4-year starter for Prairie View A&M, 3-time All SWAC selection, 2-time All American and earned the 2015 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year Award. Additionally Howard is still the record holder for career tackles, and career tackles for loss for the Prairie View A&M program. Naturally, many would expect the story to take a turn where Howard fulfills his childhood dreams and laces up his cleats in an NFL stadium, but it doesn’t.
The NFL is loaded with LBs that have the prototypical size in addition to world-class athleticism and Howard isn’t bashful about his size; acknowledging he is “small”.
However, Howard had one more opportunity; this time with a CFL tryout. Howard recalls having a positive workout and exchanging contact information with one CFL team, as the conversation had both sides thinking a contract was on the horizon. Fast forward a few days to when Howard gets a heartbreaking phone call. The news is dream crushingly horrific as the team rosters in Canada have a limit on the number of American players it can sign. Upon further review, this team reached its maximum number of American players and filled their need at LB another way.
23, that was how old Howard was when his professional football dreams ended and he found himself back home in Broward County, FL. Howard was working as a substitute teacher when he realized he was “normal” for the first time in his life.
Howard recalls how people would light up when he would come home and how he was showered with positivity during his playing days. Once, Howard returned home for good, and his football days were gone that positivity he once was greeted with turned to failure and disappointment from the same people. It was during this time Howard recognized he wasn’t the only one having this issue
“I’ve always been in a position of leadership on all my teams and I’m big on relationships, so I was still talking to a lot of my former teammates and friends and I saw they were all trying to figure out life as well. And it was everyone. The kids at the high school I was subbing at would ask “So Now What”’ about life after high school. My friends I grew up with were also trying to find themselves asking me ‘So Now What?’. I realized that life is full of endless transitions and we all have that ‘So Now What?’ moment,” Howard said
It was during this time Howard realized two things: his impact was meant to be larger than just the 30 or so students in his classroom and he had the keys to success he just needed to apply it.
And those keys to success were developed as a student-athlete starting at the age of six for the Lauderhill Lions Youth Team, Plantation High School and Prairie View A&M.
Howard recalls the typical day for a college athlete beginning with “pre-practice”. Howard traveled down memory lane describing intense days where every minute with about 20 hours of student-athlete obligations accounted for. The NCAA mandates an allotted time student-athletes can spend with the coaches weekly between practice, class, study hall, film, weight training and all associated team activities. In order to fit things into the tight windows coaches prescribed pre-practice. It was in pre-practice where Howard learned the importance of being early; so he could approach the task at hand with a clear head, and work at his craft before the coaches arrived. Getting to practice about 30 minutes early was the expectation and if it wasn’t met there were consequences. Howard jokingly reflects, “We used to get in trouble for being early to practice because it wasn’t early enough.”
Howard follows up the joke with how those lessons have made all the impact in his post-playing days, “If guys approach their craft, business or whatever they do with the same intensity they brought to football they would be amazed at what can be achieved.”
It is in this intensity that Dynamic Performance Development was born. The word dynamic fits, as Howard is constantly in motion and feels that life is about constantly evolving. Howard is not limited to just offering elite athletic and nutritional training to some of NASCAR’s top drivers and many NFL players like Ryan Shazier, Bud Dupree, Keith Kelsey, Stephon Tuitt, JJ Wilcox and others but he also works diligently to make an impact on the youth. Howard travels numerous times annually doing youth events with Nike for their camp The Nike Opening, speaking engagements for numerous businesses and institutions. While also hosting his own event at his alma mater and former employer; Plantation High School.
“So many young kids just aren’t shown the way. Like for me, all I saw was crime and athletes. I saw what that one way did to people, so I decided I’ll make sports my choice. And I show them there are other ways to win and be successful besides sports. This will be the fourth year of The Takeover Football Camp/seminar, and we bring in a wide array of professions to expose the students to various career paths that they may not generally see,” is one of the many ways Howard extends a loving hand to the attendees of his camp. We give them what they want which is increased sports performance, while giving them what they need which is motivation, exposure, and mentorship.
The lessons he shares with the athletes at his camp are the same lessons outlined in his book So Now What? The book is available on Amazon and is comprised of five chapters and 133 pages of motivational, lifelong lessons regardless of age or profession. Howard felt writing this book was part of his life mission, “It’s not about making money on the book. It’s about reading it and coming out with a newly gained perspective. It’s about someone believing in themselves, to encourage them to give it one more try when they want to give up. Too many people have the potential to do so much with their life but they don’t know where to start, how to go about it, or feel defeated due to life’s previous transition. I hope this book can help them get going to fulfill their life purposes,” is how Howard explains his true desires for the book.
I asked Howard if it feels weird to still be around the game or if he has any flashbacks and he responded with such wisdom, honesty and grace that I was left in silence. Howard mentioned how he made sure he was fully and completely done with his days playing football before embarking on the decision to become a high-end performance coach and trainer, “I didn’t want to be that guy that made it about him and what he did in his glory days. With me talking about what I did however many years ago it doesn’t make anyone in the equation better, my clients need guidance, not someone to try to live through them. I had to be able to put the needs of the client before all else”.
What many considered to be the greatest failure of his life by not making the league they can now see beyond the helmet. Howard always knew there was more for him it was just a matter of unlocking it, “I served a 15-year internship. That is how you can look at my playing days. I never was paid to play. Statistics show the average of playing professional sports (football at least) are less than 1%; therefore if you can prepare, and tell yourself you will become one of the outliers to defeat the odds, there’s no reason we can’t use that same mindset to win in whatever arena you decide to pursue post athletics.”
Howard says he’s learned so many life lessons about a winning mindset and how it translates to everyday life. The mindset of a football player is well-trained for the ups and downs of life. He recalls completely shredding every ligament in his knee, but he went through the rehab process and regained the starting position; never missing a beat. While many would think accomplishing that would be enough, Howard was the team leader in tackles and All-conference selection that season.
How can anyone deny that a person with that kind of grit is special and they will definitely find their own greatness. When you are handed a major setback you do one of two things you either evolve or evaporate and Howard has evolved. Howard encourages all current and former Athletes that although the air may be removed from the ball you are playing the “same game in a different stadium”. Unfortunately, you may not be at your institution’s home stadium but the principles learned over the years will translate to a larger stadium; the real world. He is going to make a global impact due to what he learned in football and is off to a tremendous start.
Howard at the end of the day just wants people to be happy with themselves because there is so much more to life than the little things and distractions we often place our importance on. “Too often today people lose sight of who they are because of social media, comparison, and overall identity crisis that’s currently going on in society. They are too quick to let what they do define them,” said Howard. He warns despite your choice of profession, and although many will treat you according to that title or season of your life, be weary not to confuse what you do with who you are.
Howard is setting the example for a generation on how to live life with purpose, determination and a humble sense of gratitude.
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